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Bans all flavored tobacco products, taxes vaping products

November 13, 2019 – (BOSTON) – In an effort to promote the public health of all residents of Massachusetts, last week, State Representative Denise C. Garlick (D-Needham), alongside her colleagues in the Massachusetts Legislature, voted in favor of legislation placing a ban on flavored tobacco products and an excise tax on electronic nicotine smoking devices, otherwise known as vaping products.Ring  |  Featured AdvertiserMan warns neighbor of home fire threat through the Ring Video Doorbell“I turn on my phone to see my Ring video and there were my neighbors yelling for me to get out. I turn on the light and realize my daughter’s bedroom is full of smoke.”Watch on Ring.com

The passage of this legislation is the culmination of more than a decade of work for Representative Garlick on the issue of public health and nicotine addiction. Prior to joining the legislature, Garlick served as a member of the Needham Board of Health, where she voted to raise the age for purchasing tobacco to 21. Following in Needham’s footsteps many years later, over 170 municipalities in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts adopted local Tobacco 21 laws in the lead-up to last session’s law, which increased the age statewide to 21.

Flavor Ban

Flavored tobacco and vaping products have led to a public health epidemic in Massachusetts and across the country. Menthol flavoring appeals to the youth as 56.7% of youth smokers choose menthol cigarettes. While the use of non-menthol cigarettes has decreased as a whole since 2006, the percentage of youth using menthol cigarettes has remained constant and even increased among young adults. In both youth and adult age groups, menthol cigarette use was disproportionately higher by people of color. From 2008 to 2010, 94.9% of African American youth smokers used menthol cigarettes, compared to 51.3% of white youth smokers.

The legislation implements a ban on the online and retail sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol which data shows disproportionately targets young people and people of color.

“Menthol flavoring’s disproportionate effect on youth, African Americans, and low-income residents is deeply concerning,” Representative Garlick said, “and a ban on all flavored tobacco products marks an evidence-based approach to reducing nicotine addiction and improving health outcomes for all residents of the Commonwealth.”

Recently, the United States Surgeon General declared vaping among youth an epidemic in the United States. Vape use jumped dramatically among high school students between 2017 and 2018 – in fact, it was the biggest one-year spike in forty-four years among all substances tracked. The nicotine that vape liquids contain is a highly addictive chemical that can harm brain development, affecting crucial parts of the brain that control attention, learning, and mood and impulse control.

Excise Tax

H.4183 also establishes an excise tax of 75% on the wholesale price of electronic nicotine smoking devices and products sold within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Of this revenue, 30% would be deposited into the Community Behavioral Health Promotion and Prevention Trust Fund. Established by last session’s opioid bill, of which Representative Garlick was the House author, the purpose of the Trust Fund is to fund programs in communities that promote positive mental, emotional and behavioral health among children and young adults and to boost evidence based practices to prevent substance use disorders among children and young adults – providing the tools to address the needs specific to each community.

“This legislation presents a multi-pronged strategy to combat youth vaping in Massachusetts, which includes eliminating flavored vape products that attract youth users, price sensitivity, and a strong public health response to prevent addiction,” said Representative Garlick. “The data is clear: decreased access results in decreased use. Increasing the excise tax on vaping products will help prevent nicotine addiction and will exponentially impact the health and equity for the most vulnerable residents of our communities.”

The bill now goes to the Senate for further consideration.

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